Nora is frantically roaming the streets of Dublin, looking for anyone to buy her some alcohol. Her fake ID gets taken away; she can’t get someone to get it for her. Finally, she resorts to enticing a group of men with the prospect of a party to buy her a bottle of vodka.
They finally bite, though Nora runs away before things can get too dicey. Nora seems like a reckless teenage girl out to party. But when she gets home, the reality of her life is much different and much sadder than expected.
Written and directed by John Robert Brown and produced by Tibo Travers, this sharp yet poignant drama captures the difficult realities of alcoholism, and how it affects the children of a parent dealing with an addiction. There is often an “outer facade,” as the child acts out, assumes a more grown-up air or professes a detachment from family and home. But then there is life at home, with all its disorder and chaos.
The narrative captures this double life, beginning with Nora’s restless, brash attempt to buy alcohol. Her ID is rejected and then confiscated, leading to a verbal altercation. Shot with a restless, mobile handheld camera and agitated energy, the incident presents Nora as out-of-control, belligerent and wild to the point of potential violence.
There’s a desperation to her search, which escalates with each attempt to buy alcohol. The writing carefully builds, each effort peeling back the layers to reveal Nora’s urgent need, to the point where she’s willing to offer herself and her sexuality up as a lure to get what she wants. It’s sad to watch, and we fear for Nora’s safety.
But as the narrative continues in a different direction, the storytelling complicates itself, with a Moebius stripe-like twist that reveals more to Nora’s life and character. When she gets home, the tenor of the filmmaking changes, with darker, dingier colors and lighting and a static, more stagnant camera. It mirrors the reality of Nora’s unseen, hidden life at home, with her drunken, abusive mother and a profound sense of being stuck in a difficult, painful life. With spare but telling economy, the scene takes its time to capture the psychological dynamic of the mother-daughter pair, and how Nora has become the parent of the mother. Here, actor Jordanna Jones as Nora truly reveals her range: Nora is annoyed, resigned and even disgusted by her mother, but there is also a love and loyalty that she can’t shake, which makes her situation all the more tragic.
Ultimately “Young Mother” is a portrait of a young woman asked to assume adult responsibilities much too early, and for someone who should be responsible for her. The final moments of the film reveal Nora’s resigned tenderness and sadness, as well as a casual but dark acknowledgment of how these cycles of addiction often continue. No child should be in Nora’s position, which has often hidden but enormous costs. It’s an unbearable burden for a son or daughter to take on. And sadly, the only coping mechanism is sometimes the behavior that fuels the addiction and abuse. And so the cycles continue, one seed planted in one generation to the next.